Compared to most people, I was extremely well qualified to make decisions about proper nutrition during cancer treatment: I had…
Moderation. It’s just not my thing.
Well, not inherently anyway. You see, I have an excessive personality, in pretty much every possible way.
Take my television watching habits for example. I am not a “watch an hour a day” type of gal. Instead, I like to “binge watch,” meaning I will watch an entire season of Lost in one weekend. Thank goodness for Netflix. And my shopping habits? Well, I don’t just buy one tank top. I shop every few months, and when I do, I walk out with one of everything.
I have long accepted that this is essentially who I am. It is a defining part of my personality, as long as it harms no one (myself included), I see no reason to berate myself for it.
When it comes to food, my natural tendency is to eat and drink far more than is necessary. In fact, my motto has long been “balls to the wall, or no balls at all.” I’ve been known to crush a medium pizza, drink a full bottle of wine, eat an entire chocolate bar…you get the idea. I always figured that if I was going to “cheat” I would just go all out, and the rest of the time be strict as hell. Basically, I’m not the “one piece of chocolate a day” type of girl. I either eat no chocolate, or all the chocolate.
As you can imagine, this hasn’t worked out so well for me. It’s not so much that I have anything against cheat days or a strict nutritional regimen–that approach does work for a lot of women. And it’s not that I have anything against eating in large quantities, especially if that’s the only “splurge” you’re going to have.
What irked me was that I found I was eating things just for the sake of eating them. I would eat the entire chocolate bar because it was there, and never stopped to ask myself if I really wanted all of it.
For example, if I decided I was going to eat pizza as a splurge, I’d just crush the whole thing—without even thinking about it. Had I stopped to think (and listen to my body) I would have realized that after the second slice it just didn’t taste as good. Honestly. And if that last bite of cheesy, salty, greasy goodness is not as heavenly as that very first bite, then why even eat it?
You know what I’m talking about. That first sip of wine that makes you go aaaaaahhhhh. That first bite of a warm chocolate chip cookie that makes you go mmmmmmm. It’s such a pleasurable experience. It’s food and it’s love and it’s heaven. Food is meant to be enjoyed, but shouldn’t we enjoy every bite as much as the first?
That’s when it hit me: Why not eat slowly, mindfully, and pay attention to when the taste changes? Not just when your body tells you it’s satiated from a fullness standpoint, but from the perspective of your palate as well. And this is how the the law of first bites came to be.
First-Bite Law: Every bite should taste just as good as the first.
When I began to put this into action, it was life-changing. I started to consume far less, both in physique friendly foods and “fun” foods or “splurges” because I stopped eating when I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. It doesn’t just apply to bites either, but sips as well. And not just sips of wine (or your alcohol of choice) but non-alcoholic beverages as well. When I began to do this with my morning coffee, I realized I really only wanted two cups. After that, the coffee itself was just not as palatable.
Following the law of first bites does a few things:
It’s important to understand that I’m not suggesting stressing out about portions and calories–quite the opposite actually. Mindful eating involves listening to your body, as opposed to some arbitrary number. By using the law of first bites (and sips) you can tune into your pleasure centers during consumption, and it completely eliminates the deprivation perception that often accompanies portion control and calorie counting.
Since incorporating this strategy into my life, I have come to have a much healthier relationship with food, and am able to enjoy my favorite treats in *gasp* moderation! I sometimes can’t even believe that I’m able to eat a small square of dark chocolate or have one glass of wine and feel completely content. What’s most extraordinary is the profound lack of deprivation; I feel satisfied, replete, blissful.
Now, if only I could find a way to apply this to my shopping habit…
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